Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals how to Think Differently


October 30, 2008


Gregory Berns


Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics, Emory University


No organization can survive without iconoclasts: innovators who single handedly upturn conventional wisdom and manage to achieve what so many others deem impossible. Though indispensable, true iconoclasts are few and far between. What are the constraints the human mind puts on innovative thinking and how can we avoid them? Through vivid accounts of a wide range of iconoclasts including artist Dale Chihuly, physicist Richard Feynman and others we can see the inner workings of the iconoclast’s mind with remarkable clarity. Finally we can describe practical actions we can take to understand and unleash our own potential to think differently-seeking out new environments, novel experiences and first time acquaintances.


Gregory Berns

Gregory Berns, M.D., Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University. He studies the relationship of neural systems to behavior by using a combination of computational and functional imaging techniques. His lab is particularly interested in the role of the basal ganglia in processing novelty and reward. As a complement to the imaging, they are developing computer models that link the measured circuit response to behavior. Using neural networks, they model the same tasks that their subjects perform in the scanner. This allows the testing of hypotheses regarding circuit function as well as generating new experiments. Finally, Berns is interested in neuroeconomics, a new field in which he is using imaging techniques to uncover the neural basis for many different types of human interactions and decision-making (e.g. social, economic).Profiled twice in the Science section of The New York Times, Berns and his research have been featured in media as diverse as O, The Oprah Magazine; Forbes; Nature; Money; New Scientist; Psychology Today; Self; Reader’s Digest; International Herald Tribune; and on CNN, NPR, and the BBC. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife and children.